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Canon G10 vs Panasonic Lumix LX3, compact camera choice.

I gave up using film for my professional work years ago but, have found the output from compact digital cameras so unpleasant that, up until now, I’ve kept a pocket film camera for holidays and personal use. The last attempt to change over was when I bought a Canon Powershot Pro1 about four or five years ago, but I hated it. By the time it had finished focusing, any moving object had left the building, and the noise was horrible even at low ISO’s. It went back as a part exchange within three months.

I’m full of good intentions when it comes to carrying a DSLR around at all times, but somehow I never quite manage it (too lazy). So I’d love something digital that would fit in my pocket, or at least into a small bag, and give me decent results. A couple of offerings have appeared on the market recently that seem quite tempting, the Canon G10 and the Panasonic Lumix LX3. They both have the main features I want, a good lens, manual controls and the ability to shoot RAW files, so I thought I’d have a look.

Both cameras have great reviews (for compacts) so I started by looking at the Canon G10. If it was down to shape and styling this would be my baby. It has a really solid metal body, good zoom range, 28-140mm equivalent, and produces a whopping 14.7 megapixel file. It’s a bit bigger than most compacts but I quite like that, it feels great to handle and the controls are easy to understand and use.
The Lumix LX3 is a slightly different beast. It’s smaller for a start but still has a high quality metal body. It has a faster f2.0-f2.8 Leica lens but a shorter zoom range, 24-60mm equivalent. It has a slightly smaller 10 megapixel sensor, or I should say, a slightly larger sensor with less pixels.

There seems to be a competition amongst manufacturers to try cram more and more megapixels into compact cameras. Although this gives you better resolution, which in theory is a good thing, putting all those megapixels on to a tiny sensor creates much more noise. The problem increases as you use higher ISOs, meaning that they perform very badly in low light conditions. Canon have piled a huge 14.7mp into the G10. At low ISOs the quality from this camera is astounding (see this review at Luminous Landscape for a comparison of the G10 with a top end Hassleblad). Unfortunately, as you increase the speed, the strain on the sensor starts showing in the form of noise and smudged details from ‘in camera’ noise reduction. Panansonic seem to have taken a step back from the megapixel race with the LX3 and produced a camera that works quite well at higher ISOs. Combined with a faster lens, giving further low light advantage, this is beginning to look like the more desirable combination to me. There’s another good Luminous Landscape review of the LX3 here. Prices for the Lumix are also slightly lower than the Canon, but not enough to sway a purchase.

This is not intended to be a proper review, I haven’t actually tried or seen a print from either of them yet! My only hands on experience has been five minutes in Jessops. If you are interested there’s plenty of information out there. DP Review has reviews of almost all current DSLRs and compacts .

I don’t think I can control my camera lust for much longer so I will probably have one of these by next week. I’ll post some images as soon as I have some. In the meantime, if anyone has tried either camera, I would be interested to hear your opinions.

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